SITTING with Jeff Mallett in the dugout at Pride Park Stadium an hour and a half before the eagerly-awaited clash with neighbours Nottingham Forest was an interesting experience.
Here was a man who played a lead role in building internet giant Yahoo! into a global success, a wealthy Canadian entrepreneur with a rich history and proven experience in growing technology companies, and somebody active in managing a portfolio of investments in a number of countries.
He also owns the San Francisco Giants baseball team and in some ways it would have been fitting if the East Midlands 'derby' was about to take place at the Rams' former home, the Baseball Ground.
Yet what struck me about the 45-year-old other than his impressive CV was his passion for football.
"I grew up playing football and it has always been a part of my life," said Mallett, who has been part of the ownership group behind the Rams for almost a year.
His link with the Rams goes back to the late 70s and early 80s when he watched Rams legend Kevin Hector play for Vancouver Whitecaps.
Mallett was a keen footballer himself, a striker. He was part of the Canadian National Olympic programme for a couple of years and played at college. He was selected as an "All American" and captained San Francisco State University soccer team, as well as an "All Canadian" at the University of Victoria in Canada.
"I absolutely love the sport," said Mallett, who as well as being one of the investors in the Rams is also an investor and co-director of the Vancouver Whitecaps and part-owner of the Women's Professional Soccer League in the United States, the top women's league in the world.
The Whitecaps will play in the MLS (Major League Soccer) from next year after Mallett and the rest of the club's ownership group launched a successful bid for a franchise. The Whitecaps will start the 2011 season at a newly-renovated 20,000-seater BC Place Stadium.
Mallett knows about the Rams' proud history and is excited about the club's future. He is keen to play a part and help the club reach their full potential.
He keeps in touch on a daily basis from the United States and was at Pride Park to see the last two home games both of which ended in victories. The Rams beat Doncaster Rovers in the fourth round of the FA Cup and had a 1-0 win against Forest last Saturday courtesy of Rob Hulse's powerful header 12 minutes from time.
Mallett was over from the States with a number of the club's other investors.
But matchdays for Mallett usually start at 7am at his home in the San Francisco Bay area where he lives with his wife, Claire, and their two daughters, Victoria, 15, and 12-year-old Amber.
"We get an internet feed from the BBC and so I get up and sit at the computer in my pyjamas cheering on the team," he said.
"Some days I yell at my computer, other days I want to hug it. I want to do more hugging of my computer!
"Both my daughters play football and both have been over to Derby for a couple of the games.
"And, of course, we all have our Derby gear."
Derby County is one of number of investments Mallett now concentrates on.
Back in 1995, Yahoo! founder Jerry Yang offered Mallett the role of president, chief operating officer and board member.
"My time there was unbelievable. We had 12 employees, less than six weeks' cash, no business plan and no revenue and yet by 2002 we had about 6,000 people in 27 countries and $3bn in revenue," said Mallett, who helped drive extraordinary growth and success for the company.
"I am very proud of that as it lives on and it was an incredible experience. I still golf with Jerry Yang," said Mallett.
When he left Yahoo!, Mallett turned to investing, particularly in sports like baseball and football. Another of the Rams investors, Tom Ricketts, owns the Chicago Cubs, who are rivals to Mallett's San Francisco Giants.
Mallett is also chairman and a principal investor of Indochino, a board member of Synacor and Steve Nash Enterprises.
Indochino is a Shanghai-based online company specialising in designer men's suits.
Synacor is based in New York and is a global technology company providing internet solutions.
Steve Nash is a top basketball player in the NBA with the Phoenix Suns.
He, like Mallett, has invested in the Vancouver Whitecaps and in Women's Professional Soccer.
Mallett is chairman of Nash's business and they have invested in other businesses together as well as Nash's Foundation which assists under-served children in their health, personal development, education and enjoyment of life.
Back in the dugout at Pride Park, the chat with Mallett soon returned to the game against Forest.
"This is a very, very big match for the club," he said looking out at the pitch.
"Speaking to the lads in the week, I think everybody is ready to play and they are going to come out flying."
He was right.
Derby's high-tempo game proved too much for Forest.